It is always a joy to host a Zoom get together to look at one of the four books and this week I had an opening one on ‘The LifeLine’. In the preface I initially give a quick summary of what has gone before with the framework of:
- God elects Israel for the world. This is not a ‘they are saved / Gentiles lost’ in an eternal destiny scenario… but called as priesthood for the nations – to bring the whole world to the fulfilment of human destiny.
- Choseness is with responsibility and with the hope that a counter-way of life will be chosen in order to bring as ‘salt’ within and sign to (light) a change takes place wider.
- They choose to be as one of the nations (king and also temple). So a deviation from purpose of the election begins. There is no criticism of Israel, to be chosen is to be called higher – to model true humanity. Failure is not inevitable, but ‘all (both Jew and Gentile) has sinned’. Jesus is NEEDED for sure.
- By the time of Jesus the fall is complete – we have no king but Caesar / better one dies for the nation than we lose the privileges Rome affords us.
- Paul puts it that Jesus dies Israel’s death (cursed for us) so that the original blessing of Abraham flows to the Gentiles – which he now describes as the gift of the Spirit.
- Jesus dies for our ‘sins’ not in the sense of enabling God to get over an anger issue(!!) but in order to release us (forgive) from the powers. Hence the death is to unlock the captivity – to provide a path for the final exodus.
- The New Testament world then is that of an all-but one world government ruled by an antiChrist (Caesar being ‘lord’, ‘king of kings’ etc.).
- Paul takes this message of the gospel (another Imperial word used in Rome) to the oikoumene so that a new kingdom (both oikoumene and ‘kingdom’ being used for the Roman Imperial world) can grow and manifest.
[Lots more I am thinking about at the moment – why was Jesus ‘son of David’? So a little out there but to end the lineage? After all (no disrespect) as Solomon (son of David) spectacularly fulfills the warnings about the king – so sets the lineage on a ‘we will make Israel as Egypt’ trajectory. Jesus dies as ‘king of the Jews’ – end of kingship…]
Back to the challenge to the framework. What then about what lay outside the Roman empire? China and all that lay in the Southern hemisphere? A brilliant push-back.
My current and tentative thoughts go along these lines: Israel is representative of ‘one of the nations’, but one of the nations that claims to have the true God on her side (and not without evidence – though that is dealt a major blow in AD70 – when the sign of the coming of the son of man is made clear); Rome is a major empire and representative of all Imperial structures. So a death in the nation of Israel for Israel’s sins opens up each nation to be able to walk the path to redemption; proclamation in and throughout the Roman world is in seed form a proclamation throughout all and every Imperial context. (And this Jerusalem to the ends of the earth – Jerusalem to Spain in Paul’s world – is probably the coming of the son of man in Jesus words in Matt. 24:27 ‘For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man’).
Israel was within the Roman Imperial world, hence the freedom has to be proclaimed in that world. If proclaimed there then there is a freedom for all that Rome represents – the Chinese empire of that day and every other oppressive / less than kingdom of God structures / structures dominated by demonic powers.
OK all the above just a first response – loads to process yet!!
Practically what remains is:
- Election is to bring freedom somewhere else.
- There will always be a (wrong) push to have a nation that has a self-perception of being chosen by God and has God as defender.
- Election is not simply ‘sovereign’ but carries responsibility and with hope that there will be a connection to the election with a ‘we are not set apart’ but ‘planted within for the sake of what is beyond us’.
- If we can make proclamations of ‘freedom from the powers’ within any Imperial structure, large or small, there is a proclamation beyond to all other imperial structures.